Kenyan mother granted temporary Canadian visa to visit son on life support in Winnipeg hospital

U of Manitoba computer engineering student diagnosed with fungal infection affecting the lungs

Tevin Obiga is in the intensive care unit at St. Boniface Hospital. He is on life support and has been diagnosed with a fungal infection affecting his lungs

After previously being denied, Kenyan Lilian Ndiego applied for a single-entry temporary resident visa to travel to Winnipeg to see her 25-year-old son Tevin Obiga, who is intensive care at St. Boniface Hospital. Her second application was approved Monday. 

“I’m excited and I’m very grateful,” Ndiego said Monday morning on Information Radio.

“I’m looking forward to go and see my son, and to give him moral support.”

Since receiving the good news, Ndiego took a polymerase chain reaction COVID-19 test in Nairobi, and as long as the result is negative she expects to leave Kenya on Tuesday evening.

“Maybe someone somewhere didn’t know the gravity of the situation — until now, maybe,” said George Obiga, Ndiego’s brother.

Tevin Obiga played with the Kenyan soccer team at the African Nations Cup last summer

A statement from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on Monday evening confirmed Ndiego’s visa had been approved after “additional information” was provided in the second application.

She previously applied for the visa but was denied by the High Commission of Canada in Kenya on Feb. 15.

Her application was denied despite the Kenya High Commission in Ottawa pleading with its counterpart in Kenya to allow Ndiego to come to Canada in a letter dated Feb. 4.

In a previous interview Friday, Ndiego said she expected Canada would approve her application so she could come see her son, who has been diagnosed with blastomycosis, a fungal infection that affects the lungs. 

“I was disappointed because what they wrote they were telling me that most Kenyans who go to Canada they don’t come back,” said Ndiego, who admitted to having so many sleepless nights the past five weeks.

George Obiga travelled from Kenya to visit his nephew Tevin Obiga

Tevin was in his fourth year of computer engineering studies at the University of Manitoba when he fell ill and was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 13. Doctors performed a medical procedure on him two days later, but he never woke up.

On Jan. 19, he had to be moved to the intensive care ward where he remains hooked up to several machines, including a lung bypass machine.

George wanted to provide support for his nephew, so he flew to Winnipeg to see him before returning to Nairobi just over two weeks ago.

“It’s a very difficult situation because when I got to the hospital I cried,” George said Friday.

“Last summer, he was playing for the Kenyan team [at the African Nations Cup soccer tournament] … and suddenly when I’m going to see him, he’s in this hospital bed in ICU with pipes all over, equipment and the life support machine.”

The nine-hour time difference has also been difficult for the family. 

George was struck with emotion when he saw Tevin in intensive care — helpless, breathing through tubes.

Dr. Owen Mooney is Tevin’s physician, and he wrote three letters, the last of which was penned Thursday, pleading for Ndiego to be granted passage to Canada to be with her son as “his condition is deteriorating rapidly.”

George, who noted it’s been “emotionally challenging, physically tiring,” says physicians are calling Kenya in the middle of the night trying to explain things to them. He admits it’s tough to understand what they’re saying without being present to hear the explanation.

Mooney said Tevin is on the maximum amount of life support a patient can receive. 

Uche Nwankwo, left, and George Obiga outside the St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg

Winnipeg South member of Parliament Terry Duguid also wrote a letter of his own to the High Commission of Canada in Kenya on Feb. 4.

In the letter, the Liberal MP said the primary reason for Ndiego’s visit to Winnipeg is to be with her son. Duguid also touted Ndiego’s previous 20-year career in social work in that she has “a strong inclination to returning to her duties and children, following her stay in Canada.”

In its letter, the Kenya High Commission in Ottawa wrote that Tevin is “at high risk of imminent death,” but there is still a chance, albeit slim, that he survives, George says doctors told him.

And that’s why George pushed so hard for his sister to be able to travel to Canada to see her son, possibly for the last time.

George said Monday that the family has received an update on Tevin’s condition, and that “he’s slightly improving,” but nothing major.

Doctors also did a procedure on Tevin on Saturday, George added.

Ndiego is expected arrive in Winnipeg later this week and she has one thing on her mind.

“All I’m thinking is that my son is going to come out from the ICU,” she said. “He’s going to be on his feet.”


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